Dear Ms. Paper,
Since I was 15, I have always wanted to be married. But, here I am—30 and still without a beau. My obsession with Bellanaija Weddings hasn’t helped. I spend my free time pouring over fairytale wedding stories of total strangers and find myself being bitter and unhappy with my life. I feel cut out from a special experience owed to every women. I live my life dreading the possibility that I would never enjoy the delights of a beautiful wedding and the bliss of a happy marriage? Help!
Dear Ms Singleton,
You are suffering from singletonitis—a condition first diagnosed by Bridge Jones, who served as prophet to a generation of women stranded in an unmarried state at the precarious age of 30. Bridget Jones’s Diary is not just essential reading for anyone like yourself, suffering from this condition. It is the bible, the word to live by. Helen Fielding’s story about the pathetic but endlessly charming and sometimes lovable Bridget is powerful in the way it dissects the struggles of the single woman, exposes her follies, and celebrates her strengths.
Let’s look at your case a bit more closely.
You aren’t married not because you don’t get proposals, right? But because you haven’t found Mr. Right. Let me share one of the best kept secrets of this whole marriage thing. Marriage is not about finding Mr. Right a.k.a Mr. Unrealist-Vision-Of Masculity-That-Does-Not-Exist. Marriage is about finding that someone who is willing to be a lab rat in your marriage experiment, that someone who helps you find out whether being married is right for you. Confused? Here is what I mean. It took Efuru marrying Adizua—a man far beneath her social rank—and later Gilbert—a man who refuse to accept her for what she is— to realize that the marriage thing does not work for her. Sometimes marriage is something you have to do a few times to know if its right for you or not or to figure out who is right for you. A wise old woman once said to me, “with marriage, you have to do it three or four times before you get it right.” If there is any truth in this statement, you better get the first try out of the way by marrying the next guy who pops the question.
I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm for tying the knot, but don’t forget that marriage could potentially be the worst decision of your life. Ramatoulaye’s experience in So Long a Letter should be a check on this fantasy you have of marriage as the key to every girl’s happiness. Beware, dreamy princess, Prince Charming does not stay charming forever. Being married to a man for all the right reasons—love, compatibility, etc.—does not guarantee that you won’t be rudely dragged into the nightmare of being abandoned for a younger, lovelier, more sexually-driven version of yourself—after popping out 12 children.
While you decide if marriage is right for you or if you are ready for the surprises it could throw your way, my advice is that you date, date, date! Take inspiration from Ifemelu in Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah. The road to your Mr. Perfect is lined with fun hangouts, sexual experimentation, and kissing lessons from as many men as you can meet. If all goes well, Mr. Perfect will be waiting when you arrive from your journey of romantic exploration, ready to sweep you off your feet. As Ifemelu can attest to, his being already married doesn’t even matter.
Whatever is keeping you single, the key is to avoid being desperate, to keep your expectations about marriage modest, to work on your motives for getting married, and, for heavens sake, to enjoy being single.
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